People who’ve had bad experiences with police have sometimes responded negatively to our materials, arguing that police will simply take things to the next level if you refuse a search. Here’s an interesting example from Florida, in which police were forced to drop the charges after wrongfully arresting a suspect who refused a search:
Pensacola City Council candidate Jeffrey A. Humbles will not be prosecuted in connection with resisting a law enforcement officer, the State Attorney’s Office said.
The decision was made Wednesday after investigators with the State Attorney’s Office finished reviewing his case.
A Sheriff’s Office report regarding the incident said a K-9 unit alerted on Humbles’ vehicle, indicating the possible presence of narcotics. The dog’s action gave deputies probable cause for a search, Escambia sheriff’s spokesman Glenn Austin said.
After Humbles refused multiple times to give deputies keys to his locked vehicle, he was arrested on a charge of resisting a law enforcement officer without violence.
Once in custody, Humbles gave his keys to deputies, who opened the locked vehicle and searched it. No narcotics were found, the sheriff’s report said.
Humbles said deputies violated his civil rights by searching his locked vehicle. “The Constitution is there to protect everyone, and it works,” he said. “Those words have value and meaning, and we need to keep them alive to protect our rights.
“We have the right to privacy and the right against illegal searches and seizes. And that makes us America. That’s what make this country great.” [Pensacola News Journal]
We couldn’t agree more. In this case, Humbles could probably have avoided some hassle by simply letting police have their way. Instead, he stood up for his rights and was vindicated in the end. Even though he had nothing to hide, he understood the importance of asserting his rights. After all, it’s always possible that a careless friend left something in the car. You can never be 100% sure, even if you never break the law.
Now he has a solid wrongful arrest lawsuit, if he chooses to pursue it. And, at the very least, he taught the police that even law-abiding citizens like himself are willing to stand up for their rights.